Blog by Gulsher Panhwer
“Mountains will move, water sources will evaporate and sun will descend close to earth. Supper rich will be ready to offer their wealth in exchange of sip of water”. Horrified, we used to huddle together during our adolescent years at some religious congregations while hearing speech of religious leader on doomsday. There are also some science fiction and fantasy movies depicting different scenarios of doomsday.
However, in our lifetimes concrete mountains in shape of mega housing schemes like controversial Bahria town are moving like wild fire to devour precious agriculture land and sparse greenery. This anti-environment and anti-poor drive is promoted and supported on the pretext of providing homes to homeless and reducing poverty.
However, situation on paints equally different picture i.e. there are 20 million homeless people and poverty is rising in Pakistan with each passing day and with launching more and more real estate mega schemes. Furthermore, for ecosystem and environmental balance and making human and flora fauna life tolerable on the globe there must be 25 per cent land cover with forests. But panchayat of few rich of possessing several bungalows in different cities spreading on scores of acres and shikaragah by big landlords swallows large treks of land.
This causes further wiping of tree cover which according to Food and Agriculture Organization has been reduced to 2.2 percent of total land of Pakistani.
Consequently, rising temperature to 48 to 52 degree has become common occurrence in Pakistan during cruel summers.
Water issue turned into crisis
Big land lords have also invaded semi desert and forest land and illegally encroached and striped these protected forest areas for bringing more land under cultivation. Thus both real estate spree and bringing protected forest land under excessive cultivation has removed badly needed tree cover on one hand and put immense pressure on underground water. This is coupled with mismanagement and wastage of precious water resources meant for drinking and agriculture purposes is rapidly pushing Pakistan to the status of water insecure country.
Population in different area is facing acute dirking and irrigation water scarcity turning into humanities disaster. Parts of District Dadu and other areas in Sindh Province for last 30 years are facing irrigation water shortage and complete unavailability in tail end areas. Small towns like Johi to metropolitan city like Karachi are suffering from drinking water crisis. The water shortage crisis is aggravating with each passing day.
Nay Sayers of climate change have field day as they shrug off impeding climate change crisis as hoax by “infidel west”.
The roadsides, barrages and canal sides in many parts of Pakistan previously adorned with shady trees have become relic of nostalgic past. Parks, huiiries (block trees) have been or being removed in the name of reducing poverty and spurring development.
The government departments and non-governmental organizations’ campaigns for plantation of million trees have no effective visibility and impact as people and government departments undertake these campaign as ritual attempting to meet ambitious and unrealistic hasty targets. Thus out of million trees purportedly planted during each tree plantation campaigns few or no trees survive or seen on the ground.
The signs and symptoms of doomsday scenario painted by religious leaders has started manifesting and if the indifferent and casual response by government, religious leaders, media and civil society actors is not stopped. We are destined to experience more severity in doomsday sings.
We as a nation need to avert this impending climate change crisis which if not checked may result in more crisis and humanitarian disaster of still higher intensity.
All the stakeholders need to be serious on following. Take immediate steps brining population to optimal size to reduce pressure on land, water and other natural resources and civic facilities.
- Regulation and if need be ban the constructing and owning serval bungalows and villas by elite. Promote multi-storey houses schemes to save land for agriculture and tree cover. Do legalisation and implement laws on optimal use of underground water.
- Promote and introduce subsidized solar energy for homes, industrial, commercial and agriculture purpose.
- Promote small home gardens, kitchen gardens and orchards in urban, semi urban and rural parts of the country.
- Check and penalize the overuse of water for agriculture and home purposes by powerful well-to-do in cities and well connected landlords in parts of the country and make this saved water available for the areas facing acute water shortage for drinking and cultivation purpose.
- Introduce and implement with small farmers crops varieties suitable for brackish water and less water.
- Government agriculture, irrigation departments, forest department and other related government department should be disinfected from corruption, sloth, outdated mind-set and desk based research and adopt and implement modern agriculture and optimal water usage techniques by establishing demo along with farmers.
- University should enlarge their outreach and link their research with farmers rather than doing indoor research and experimentation and keeping this research in their shelf.
- Industries should be incentivised to have effective collaboration with farm for win win opportunities for both industries and poverty stricken and mostly indebted farming community.
If these steps are taken, we may reduce the impact of doomsday scenario which is becoming reality and make this part of the soil paradise on earth. Furthermore, we me reduce economic inequalities, provide relatively equal housing, drinking water and other civic amenities. We may reduce poverty in real terms and with it, reshape, peaceful, prosperous, egalitarian society.
The writer is freelance journalist and development activist, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org